Archive for John O’Donnell

Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake was a British poet, writer, painter and illustrator who is sadly little known today. He had an extraordinary output of materials in all these fields. One of the most incredible pieces of work that he did as a painter was a series that he did in 1940 for the Ministry of Information. He created the paintings in the style of the art of Adolf Hitler. He showed, using his own imagination, mutilated, raped or starving victims of war atrocities as he imagined Hitler might have drawn them before these became generally known. The British government backed off from using them as propaganda but the paintings were exhibited for the first time in 2011.

The Beauty of Connecticut

Louis Untermeyer was the author, editor or translator of more than one hundred books. He is best known today as a superior poet as well as a great friend of Robert Frost. He eventually moved to Connecticut when he was older. He bought a farm in Newtown and described his love for Connecticut: “I live on an abandoned farm in Connecticut…ever since I found my native New York unlivable as well as unlovable…On these green and sometimes arctic acres I cultivate whatever flowers insist on growing in spite of my neglect; delight in the accumulation of chickadees, juncos, cardinals, and the widest possible variety of songless sparrows; grow old along with three pampered cats and one spoiled cairn terrier; season my love of home with the spice of annual travel… and I am always happy to be home again.”

Banned Books Week

Did you know that one of the greatest examples of English prose mastery, Ulysses by James Joyce, was once unavailable in the United States because it was on the banned book list. Banned Books Week is being marked this year from September 30 to October 6. Be sure to carefully guard your freedom to read.

Savior of Monte Cassino

The Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy was heavily bombed and destroyed by Allied bombers in February of 1944. The Allies thought that the Germans had placed soldiers in the monastery but the Germans had not done so. The Abbey buildings were completely destroyed. But the art treasures that it contained (including paintings by DaVinci, Titian, Raphael, a 70,000 volume library and ancient manuscripts) had been saved and sent to Rome thanks to the foresight of Lieutenant-Colonel Julius Schlegel who provided transport to the Abbey in October to remove these treasures to Rome. Schlegel had been a librarian and art historian in Vienna before the war.

James Bond Genealogist

I had avoided seeing the 1969 movie, Her Majesty’s Secret Service, because it was reputed to be the weakest entry in the James Bond series of movies. Sean Connery had given up the role and was replaced by George Lazenby. I recently viewed the movie and was pleasantly surprised. It is not as bad as it reputed to be. But the best part of the movie was that Bond gains access to his arch-nemesis, Bloefeld, by pretending to be a genealogist from the London College of Arms. He is going to help Bloefeld prove that he is the Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp!